Bell picked up his 11th save in as many chances Wednesday as San Diego topped the Giants, 2-1, at PETCO Park, though the praise that came his way afterward weren't for any of the 13 pitches he threw.
Instead, Bell, who hasn't allowed a run this season in 17 innings, was applauded for his barehanded, do-or-die play he made on an Emmanuel Burriss topper in front of the plate, which was good for the second out of the ninth inning.
"I'm a tough judge of defense, but I give that a 9.75," Padres manager Bud Black said of the play that helped the team inch one out closer to its fifth consecutive victory. "That was a hell of a play."
Third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff, no stranger to barehanded plays himself, did Black one better.
"That was awesome; from 0 to 10, I would rate it a 10," said Kouzmanoff, who hit a tiebreaking home run in the fourth inning that stood up. "You've got a fast runner and if he gloves that ball, I think he's [Burriss] safe."
Yes, these are heady times for the Padres (18-22), who, after going 0-6 on a road trip, in the last 10 days have now swept the Reds and secured, at the very least, a series victory over the Giants (19-20).
They've done it with strong pitching, from the starters to the bullpen. This is a team that went nearly a month without a victory from a starting pitcher. Now, the Padres have gotten victories from Jake Peavy, Chris Young and, on Wednesday, Chad Gaudin.
"I've seen guys getting ahead in the count, throwing strikes and putting guys away," Black said.
For Gaudin (1-3), in his first start at PETCO Park, this game was generally an early walk compared to what he endured five days ago at Wrigley Field when he walked seven in an 11-3 loss to the Cubs.
Gaudin allowed one run in six innings and did walk four, but, like Young did Tuesday, was able to pitch his way out of trouble. He did so by keeping the ball down in the strike zone, getting 10 groundouts.
"Early in the game it was fine, but late in the game it got a little spotty," Black said. "When you walk a guy or two, it becomes critical that you get those next batters out."
The same holds true for pitchers in the bullpen, and the three relievers the Padres threw at the Giants -- rookies Greg Burke and Luke Gregerson and Bell, the first-year closer -- did their part after Gaudin left after six innings and 102 pitches.
Burke tossed his third scoreless inning since being recalled last week from Triple-A Portland and allowed one hit in the seventh inning. Second baseman David Eckstein might have saved a run with a diving play that inning on Pablo Sandoval's ball up the middle.
Gregerson followed by working a scoreless eighth inning, including getting a strikeout on a wipeout slider he threw to Randy Winn.
Finally, Bell, entered the ninth inning and got Travis Ishikawa looking at a called third strike on a curveball. Then he got Burriss on the topper, a play that proved tough since Burriss can run and was coming out of the box from the left-hand side.
"I thought to myself, I have to catch it and throw it [at once]," Bell said. "I did not want to throw it down the line. Eck said he jumped 20 feet in the air. I might watch the replay, not for the throw but for Eck jumping."
Offense was again at a premium for the Padres and Giants, who played their second 2-1 game in as many nights.
The Padres managed two hits off Giants starter Jonathan Sanchez (1-4), who allowed the two runs in six innings. Three relievers combined to allow the other two hits.
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less